Two Superfund site units move toward partial deletion

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Two portions of the Libby Asbestos Superfund site continue to move toward removal from the National Priorities List in a process known as a partial deletion, officials from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency told the Lincoln County Commission on Nov. 29.

The two portions are operating units 1 and 2 — the former export plant and the former screening plant, respectively.

The EPA’s partial deletion rule, in effect since Nov. 1, 1995, allows the agency to delete parts of a site listed on the National Priorities List so long as certain criteria are met. The agency’s previous policy was to wait until an entire site was cleaned before delisting it.

“Total site cleanup may take many years, while portions of the site may have been cleaned up and may be available for productive use,” the agency states on its website.

Operating units 1 and 2 are now under the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) program and being managed by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

According to the EPA’s website, the “O&M program is a formulated plan of training, cleaning, work practices and surveillance … to minimize exposure … to asbestos fibers.”

Lisa Dewitt of DEQ told the Commission on Nov. 29 that “we’ve taken some time this last year to get a separate cooperative agreement put in place with the EPA so that (we) can access the pool of O&M money that was set aside.”

“As with anything government, it takes longer than expected to get that in place but I think we’re finally there,” she said. “And we’re getting contracts and mechanisms in place to get the site inspections completed” by April.

Dania Zinner, the EPA’s remedial project manager for the two operating units, told the Commission “OU1 and 2 have everything in place” to proceed toward partial deletion, except perhaps for an environmental covenant placed on OU1, which is the Riverfront Park.

An environmental covenant is a document filed with a property’s deed that lists its possible future land uses and any restrictions due to any asbestos contamination left encapsulated on the property.

“I am in the midst of putting together all the draft documents we need for deletion docket,” Zinner reported.

The deletion document is one aspect of the partial deletion process. Others include publishing notices in the federal register, holding a formal public comment period and asking the State of Montana for concurrence.

After the state’s concurrence, other critical steps include a 30-day public comment period and concurrence from EPA headquarters.

Zinner said in a mid-July interview that the partial deletion process could take 12 to 18 months, adding that it was difficult to say exactly when it could happen.

Zinner and Dewitt both noted to the Commission that the partial deletion of both operating units could be the first deletions from the NPL of any Superfund site in Montana.

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